Heroic Spirituality and Christ in Beowulf
What comes to mind when the word “hero” is stated? Is it superheroes like Batman or Superman, or is it just simply anyone that shows bravery, allegiance, wisdom, and strength? In the poem, Beowulf, we see a true hero. Beowulf is a Geatish protagonist who battles the monster Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and a dragon. Beowulf’s encounters make him known to be the toughest, talented fighter around. In his adolescence, he characterizes all of the best values of the epic values. In his old age, he shows a wise and effective ruler. His conquest of beating Grendel and Grendel’s mother confirms his character for courage and shows himself fully as a hero.
In Beowulf, there are three different elements of mutually reinforcing religious thought. These three elements, Myth, Paganism, and Christianity are all existent in three different understandings of the theme of Beowulf. They were not written into the text on purpose by the various writers; however, they characterize the religiousness of each of the distinct cultures. This comes from the few different circumstantial effects in the story, which are the impact of traditions on the Mythical interpretation, the influence of Paganism from the Scandinavian Dark Ages on the Pagan interpretation, and the influence of Christianity from early Anglo-Saxon England on the Christian interpretation.
It can be determined from these studies of Beowulf, that the text has a reliable foundation in Myth, which begins key elements of the narrative. This understanding is distinct from the later Pagan and Christian exclamations of the text, as these two explanations announce different and distinct spiritual ideas into the text. Each of these ideas is fairly homiletic, while the Mythical interpretation is more general in its spiritual outlook. In the story, every time something good happened, they would feast; for example, when Beowulf arrived to help and when he slayed another monster. Feasting was almost religious. It was like feasting was a way to show praise to their God.
Throughout the story Beowulf repeatedly acknowledges God as his protector. When Beowulf tells his fight with Grendel’s mother, he says in lines 1610-1611, ‘He who weilds power over time and tide: He is the true Lord.” In line 1627, it mentions him thanking God. Further demonstrated in lines 1656-1658, he said, ” It was hard fought, a desperate affair that could have gone badly; if God had not helped me, the outcome would have been quick and fatal.” (Shippey) There is a sense of mystical protection permeating all of Beowulf’s actions. However, there is also a solid sense that God’s protection must be earned; a soldier must first be true to his values, courage, morality, vanity, and humbleness and only then will he earn God’s protection.
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Shippey, Tom. “Beowulf.” Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology English Literature. 9. Vol. 1. n.d. 75-76.